How to Choose a Camping Stove for Bicycle Touring

In this guide on choosing a camping stove for bike touring, we'll take a look at what's available and which type of stove might be best for you.

how to choose a camp stove for bikepacking

How to choose a bikepacking stove

When choosing a camp stove for bikepacking, there are several factors to consider. These include weight, packability, cooking control, fuel, and stability.

Perhaps the most important factor to consider when choosing a camping stove for long distance bicycle touring, is the availability of fuel along the route. As fuel will need to be restocked along the way, how easy it is to obtain is something to consider.

Other factors to consider include temperatures and environmental conditions, along with carrying space for fuel and the stove itself.

What are the pros and cons of different types of camp stoves for bikepacking

The five main types of stoves for bikepacking are alcohol stoves, canister stoves, liquid fuel stoves, wood-burning stoves, and solid fuel stoves.

  • Liquid fuel stoves: Pros – versatile, efficient, and suitable for cold weather. Cons – heavier and more complex than other stoves, and require more maintenance.
  • Canister stoves: Pros – easy to use, fast to boil water, and suitable for cold weather. Cons – canisters are bulky and wasteful, and can be difficult to recycle.
  • Alcohol stoves: Pros – lightweight, simple, and inexpensive. Cons – slow to boil water, not suitable for cold weather, and can be banned in high fire risk areas for lack of shutoff valve.
  • Wood-burning stoves: Pros – fuel is abundant and free in some areas. Cons – can be slow to boil water, firebans may be in effect, fuel not always easy to find, bad to use in wet weather, and require more effort to gather fuel.
  • Solid fuel stoves: Pros – extremely small and light. Cons – fuel is bulky and hard to find, doesn't produce much heat, and leaves residue on cookware.

What's the best camping stove for Bicycle Touring?

I have tried most of the different fuel types at one time or another, and each one has its uses in different situations and countries. For long distance bicycle touring of many months, the best stove I’ve used is the MSR Whisperlite Internationale. This is a multi-fuel stove, which is most conveniently run on petrol/gasoline. 

The MSR Whisperlite Internationale is ubiquitous in the bicycle touring world, and runs on almost any liquid fuel. Most people will run it on petrol, although it can run on diesel.

Whilst diesel may be cheaper in some parts of the world, using it does give off more smoke, so I tend to avoid this.

The Whisperlite comes with a field maintenance kit which means that most repairs can be carried out in camp, and it truly is a robust and reliable piece of kit.

Of all the camp stoves I have used, this is my favourite, and I used it when cycling from Alaska to Argentina.

The benefit is that the fuel is available everywhere. The downside is that in some more developed countries, just paying for 750ml of petrol at a station can present problems!

Gas Canister Stoves for Bike Touring

Gas stoves are a very popular choice for cyclists who want a light, compact camping stove to take on tour. They are super easy to use, and pack away in panniers without any issues.

I’ve got one of the MSR Pocket Rocket stoves which by itself is tiny and weighs virtually nothing. Canisters will add extra bulk and weight to your bike touring setup of course. You can also buy these stoves as part of a kit which packs neatly together.

Pocket Rocket type gas stoves use either butane or propane cannisters which can be bought at outdoors stores. You can’t take these on a flight with you.

I have used canister fuelled stoves in the past, and perhaps the most popular, is the Camping Gaz version which I used through Europe when cycling from England to South Africa. When entering Africa, these cannisters became unavailable and so I simply made do without the stove afterwards.

I last used one in Iceland which was a 6 week trip. It was ideal there as these camping stove canisters were available everywhere.

In my opinion, canister fuelled camp stoves have their place in the bicycle touring world, but not on extended trips. In Europe and North America – brilliant. Cycling through remote regions of Peru – No way.

Advantages – perfect for shorter tours or where buying canisters is very easy. Lightweight. Efficient. variable heat.
Disadvantages – You can't reuse the canisters. Buying canisters can be troublesome in out of the way places, and impossible in some countries.

Alcohol Stoves for Bicycle Touring

Alcohol stoves are incredibly lightweight, often weighing less than 3 ounces, and boast a minimalistic design with few moving parts, ensuring ease of use. The most well known brand of alcohol type camping stove, also known as a spirit burner, is the Trangia which runs on methylated spirits.

One essential consideration is fuel availability. Alcohol stoves rely on denatured alcohol or similar fuels. These are not always easily found when out in the wilds or away from major urban centers.

It's crucial to note that alcohol stoves do have their quirks. They exhibit a relatively slow boil time, sometimes taking up to 8 minutes under favorable conditions. Additionally, they can be finicky in windy environments, requiring a windscreen to maintain a steady flame.

When it comes to cold weather performance, alcohol stoves may not be your best bet, as they tend to struggle in subfreezing temperatures and are generally not recommended for use in such conditions.

A Trangia was my very first type of stove I took when hitchhiking in the UK. The main practical drawbacks were getting hold of fuel, and seeming to have to wait forever for water to boil or food to cook.

Wood Burning Stoves

Wood burning stoves come in all shapes and sizes, from a Kelly Kettle type design to a collapsable firebox. 

These do have an appeal for people who are getting into the outdoors life and want more self-sufficiency as they travel. Practically speaking though, they do not have much use as a reliable camping stove due to fire restrictions in countries, weather conditions, and fuel availability. 

Wood burning stoves are great if you know you can use it in a specific are you plan to bike tour in. These types of stove are not so suitable for long distance bike touring though.

Solid Fuel Stoves For Camping

Solid fuel stoves are a type of camping stove that use solid fuel tablets or cubes to heat food or water. Many people who have served in the UK armed forces like to use solid fuel camp stoves on short trips.

Solid fuel stoves are a popular option for minimalist bikepackers or as an emergency option. However, they are not very efficient and are not recommended for extended trips due to the bulkiness of the fuel tablets and their limited heat output. Solid fuel stoves are also not suitable for group cooking or complex meals. They are best suited for solo ultralight bikepackers on short trips with frequent resupply

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Camping Stove FAQ

Readers looking at choosing between backpacking stoves to take on their next bikepacking trip often ask similar questions such as:

What should I look for when buying a camping stove?

When looking to buy a camping stove, there are a few things you should consider. The first is the type of fuel the stove uses – this could be canister fuel, alternative fuel (such as hexamine or wood), or liquid fuel. You should also think about the weight and size of the stove.

How big of a camp stove do I need?

When looking to buy a camping stove, you should think about how big of a stove you need. If you are only going on a short trip, then you might not need a bulky stove that takes up a lot of space. A small, lightweight stove that uses canister fuel would be perfect for this type of trip.

Is a camp stove necessary for bike touring?

A camp stove is not necessary for bike touring, but it can be a very useful item to have. If you are touring for an extended period of time, cooking your own meals can save you a lot of money. There are a variety of different camp stoves available, so you should choose one that best suits your needs.

Are wood burning stoves any good for bicycle touring?

While there are some disadvantages to using a wood burning stove for bicycle touring – such as the fact that they are frowned upon on campsites and can be quite bulky – there are some advantages too. For one, the fuel is free. Wood can also be collected from the surrounding area, which is ideal if you are touring in a wilderness.

1 thought on “How to Choose a Camping Stove for Bicycle Touring”

  1. I’m no know-it-at, but! There is a way to simmer the whisperlite.
    Once you get the stove working, post-prime, you turn the gas off, release the pressure in the can by unscrewing it. Making sure not to spill fuel over the ground. Screw it back on and apply a few pumps to increase the pressure in the fuel bottle only slightly. Then turn on the gas again.


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